Boredom in Motherhood: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
by Teresa CurrivanJanuary 11, 2018
It’s surprising, isn’t it, how there are times when boredom is good? It’s something we need to not just tolerate, but embrace. It can be the gateway to something amazing – like when your child tells you she’s bored and you sit with it, not trying to create something for her, and she comes up with a creative project, or an idea that she begins or even carries out to fruition. Or, you think a walk in the woods by yourself will be boring, you do it anyway, and you come alive with self-reflection, new ideas, and stillness.
The bad can be when you notice that your child is constantly bored. He complains that school is boring. She doesn’t seem engaged with friends. A constantly bored child can become depressed or turn to things that are both exciting and harmful.
One of the most fascinating things that I’ve discovered about motherhood is that a mother can be completely overwhelmed, anxious, busy doing all the right things for her family, and be bored. I find that to be a huge paradox, one that can lead to misunderstanding the why of her sometimes-hidden unhappiness.
A first step is recognizing boredom for what it is. When we’re out-of-our-mind busy, we’d never think “Oh, I’m so busy, I’m bored.” We’ll attribute our feelings of dissatisfaction to stress, “too busy,” and all the other emotions that we associate with too much to do and too much to handle.
Unpacking the “bored” feeling can be helpful. What’s the feeling about? Is it lack of intellectual stimulation? Or perhaps it’s a lack of certain kinds of connection – maybe sensual, maybe deeper friendships (the kind that needs more than a play date conversation). Where was I before becoming a mother, or before being pulled into the trauma years?
Boredom can become a huge negative for a parent, especially for the mother who’s taking care of the day-to-day of making sure a family is in working order. Here’s the bad recipe: You may be problem solving at every corner, dealing with intensities and sensitivities, helping your kids grow so they can one day be on their own. You’re not getting enough down-time alone, not making connections outside of your family, or both. Mix that with some overwhelm and tediousness (dishes, homework, laundry, bill paying – what’s tedious for some can be relaxing and enjoyable for others), then add some fatigue with a touch of lack-of-sleep. Now stir in a little self-talk and a pinch of self-judgement into the mix, such as, “I’m a failure as a mother and whatever else I hoped to be, while everyone else seems to be going off to Hawaii (or has a successful career, or has a great relationship with her significant other, or seems happier than me, or whatever).” You have a perfect mom’s recipe for The Ugly.
Many of us escape. And let’s face it, some escapes from constantly being there for the troops are healthy and necessary. Your escape might be shopping, if you have the money; a drink from time to time; a little gossip, cooking or food; time alone, time with friends – we all have something that is and, must be, our little escape. But, sometimes we might become a little dependent on a painkiller, or maybe indulge in too much wine at the end of the day, or the gossip or needing to fix everyone else’s problems becomes obsessive. Is your escape filling another need? Only we can know when something isn’t serving us anymore.
Just as we need to find healthy ways to help our kids out of boredom, we must also find our own way out. There are a variety of ways: supporting ourselves through friendships, jobs, projects, maybe even medication until we get on our feet, body-centered practices like yoga or running, finding a vocation or hobby that feeds our soul. Remember the kids who can go from boredom to depression or activities that are exciting and harmful? Well, us moms, may need to take stock to make sure that our escapes come in the form of life-affirming self-care.
Letting ourselves feel vulnerable enough to admit this to ourselves is our power. Only we can know what our special way out of the Ugly is, and only we can know when the time is right.
This article was originally published at HelpMyChildrenThrive.com.